It is time for an Orange County Ethics Commission
By Shirley Grindle, author of the Tincup Ordinance
Orange County needs an Ethics Commission that can administer and enforce our local campaign reform ordinance and other ethics ordinances ( i.e. Gift Ban, Lobbyist Registration, and Conflicts of Interest). Currently there is very little enforcement by either the OC Board of Supervisors or the OC District Attorney.
The OC Board of Supervisors has rejected establishing an Ethics Commission even though the two most recent Grand Juries have documented the need for one.
Because of the Board’s refusal to establish an Ethics Commission, we are left with no choice but to conduct a county-wide initiative to place an ETHICS COMMISSION ORDINANCE on the November 2016 ballot. We believe the voters have the right to decide if Orange County needs an Ethics Commission.
WHY: Orange County has a number of ethics-type ordinances, but none of them are currently being monitored or enforced. An independent body such as an Ethics Commission is vitally needed to take over this responsibility with respect to our local Campaign Finance Ordinance (TINCUP), the County’s Gift Ban, the Lobbyists Registration Ordinance and the County’s Code of Ethics and Commitment to Public Service.
WHAT: “Citizens for Orange County Ethics Commission” (ID# 1377524) is a group of citizens who believe it is time for Orange County to have its own Ethics Commission. We are currently the only major city or county in California that has not established an Ethics Commission to enforce local campaign laws, gift ban, lobbyist registration and other ethical issues.
We have prepared an ordinance to establish an Orange County Ethics Commission – “READ THE ORDINANCE.” The four principle features of this Ordinance are:
- Comprehensive: Would receive and review complaints alleging violations of the County laws related to campaign finance, the gift ban, lobbyist registration and the Code of Ethics and Commitment to Public Service.
- Political Independence: Provides for the screening and appointment of Commission members who must meet a strict set of qualifications. No elected officials are involved in this process thus avoiding political favoritism.
- Independent Local Enforcement: An Ethics Commission will investigate and enforce violations of campaign laws, gift ban and lobbyist registration. Complaints regarding conflicts of interest and other ethics violations will be received and reviewed by the Commission and forwarded to other appropriate enforcement agencies. This process replaces the county practice of having employees investigating ethics violations of other employees which ends up in cover-ups to avoid embarrassing public disclosure. The Commission serves as a “safe harbor” for employees to report ethics violations.
- Independent Tracking of Campaign Contributions: Commission staff would maintain an independent tracking system of all contributions made to County Candidates/County Elected Officials.
HOW: Signature gathering will begin later this year in order to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. Both volunteer and professional signature gatherers will be needed to collect around 90,000 signatures. We must raise funds to pay for the expenses associated with this Initiative effort. We are therefore calling for volunteers to first raise funds, and later this year to gather signatures.
Your donation will help fund the collection of needed signatures.